Senate hopeful John Fetterman: ‘It’s the only way if I want to continue to have an impact’

Read Death and Taxes profile on Fetterman here

The F. Scott Fitzgerald quote goes “Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy.” In this case, the tragedy of Braddock has already been written, but Pennsylvania, and maybe the entire country, might be about to be shown a new hero. Mayor John Fetterman spoke with Death and Taxes on November 14, just after the Paris terrorist attacks, about Braddock, 2016 politics, perseverance, and the value of public service.

Steve King: I’d like to start with Braddock and work our way forward. You’ve said the city is “so far gone it invites people to try different things” and that you’re essentially “recycling an entire town.” You bought an abandoned church and turned it into a community center, a derelict school was turned into an art gallery, and a vacant lot became Braddock Farms.

John Fetterman: The way that I categorized it is that destruction can breed creation. That’s the metaphor that we started back in 2006 when I took office, where the town had lost so much that the slogan was “Reinvention is the only option.” So that was our kind of jumping-off point. Yeah, vacant lots became playgrounds. An abandoned convent became a hostel in town. With all the different building and things that we’ve done, we’ve never displaced anybody. These have all been derelict structures. Some people think it’s gentrification, but no. It was an abandonment plague and it’s about restoring them and returning things to their highest and best use.

SK: What are some of the new projects you’ve been working on?

JF: My wife’s Free Store has been brilliant. We’re in the process of opening up a restaurant in town with chef Kevin Sousa. We have the Braddock Promise, which we modeled after the Pittsburgh Promise, which is a really great program that provides scholarship funds to residents with a certain level of GPA and attendance that goes toward their tuition. We have smaller scale things like eliminating heating insecurity, where we started off with a couple dozen homes I discovered didn’t have heat. We have really great programs where we developed this partnership with People’s Gas, which is the natural gas utility in the area. We have Brew Gentleman Brewery in town. We have a coffee shop coming into town. We have an artisan metal worker operation, Studebaker Metals, that just opened in town. We’re rehabilitating an eight story furniture store in town into loft apartments with partnered development, which in most communities is no big deal, but in a place like Braddock we’ve attracted a private developer to develop market rate housing. It’s certainly unprecedented in 30-plus years.

SK: And the furniture store building has a green roof, right?

JF: It has a green roof. It’s just an awesome building. It’s this beautiful art deco building. It’s going to be called the Ohringer Lofts, after the name of the family that owned the furniture store. It’s just a spectacular building. My nonprofit bought the building for $10,000 back in 2010. People, who, if they are living in a place like New York or Brooklyn or a major city, just can’t comprehend buying a 40,000 square foot building for $10,000. That gives you an idea of not only how far things have gone but also the sense of opportunity too. So that’s playing to strengths that we have. In other words, we were able to take these projects on and things had a way of, at least, thus far, working out.

SK: Through all of your initiatives, Braddock appears to be a sort of petri dish of cooperative, community-building, and an almost post-industrial liberal utopia. The New York Times Magazine called you the “Paul Bunyan of hipster urban renewal.” Braddock has been called “the Brooklyn of Pittsburgh.” You’ve got urban homesteaders coming in for cheap housing.

JF: There’s nothing utopic about Braddock. There’s just a great opportunity. I consider it my home and a moral obligation from a public policy perspective to take care of places like Braddock and to help rehabilitate places like Braddock. It’s like “What are the public policy solutions here?” It’s been something that’s been driving me. It’s what I went to school for. A lot of my classmates have moved to nice cities like Boulder, Colorado or New York City or San Francisco or Washington D.C., and there’s nothing wrong with that. But this is what really resonates with me, and to be given the ability to be part of our rebuilding effort that’s grounded in the right principles.

SK: How many new residents and businesses have moved to Braddock since you started these initiatives? Have you gotten to a place where you’re increasing the tax base and it’s kind of selling itself at this point?

JF: Yeah. We’ve had over a dozen businesses relocate into town. We’ve stabilized the population for the first time in decades. I don’t want to give your readers the idea that we somehow fixed Braddock. It’s not that type of a proposition. It’s more like, this a community that had so much taken from it and lost so much, that being able to help and move it back in the right direction and make it a safe place and more just place and make it a place where people can appreciate the uniqueness and history.

SK: You also took some abandoned homes and turned them into public housing for foster kids who had aged out of the program.

JF: It wasn’t public housing. It was housing for young people who had transitioned out of the foster care system who would have otherwise been homeless. In fact, when we sunsetted that project, we actually sold one of the duplexes to one of the original foster care tenants who’s now a homeowner, and now he rents the other side of the duplex out to a young family with three small children. So again, it was taking a minimal amount of money and taking the homes that I think we paid $5,000 for each of them, repurposing it and reimagining it into something that it was supposed to be.

SK: What else have you done for housing and homeownership in the community since then? Have home prices increased at all? Are there any new housing programs?

JF: Sure. Houses that go up for sale are rerouted pretty quickly. Now there’s a lot of interest in housing stock. It’s not purchased by Section 8. Houses aren’t abandoned anymore. Years ago people would just walk away from them. Now there’s a market for houses in Braddock. There’s just a lot of great new energy. A lot of people getting involved. We’re heading in the right direction but there’s a still long way to go.

SK: When you became mayor you turned the administration of the police department back over to the police, which was something primarily within the mayor’s purview. Since then, crime has dropped dramatically every year in Braddock, as you’ve acted more as a mediator between the people and the police. The town went five years without a murder. You’ve said that you’re pro-police and pro-Black Lives Matter. How have you threaded that needle?

JF: It really comes down to accountability. And being available 24 hours a day to people and having people understand the actions that you’re taking, and the reasons why you’re doing things. No community can begin to work its way back if it’s perceived and or is unsafe. It just won’t work. You can invest whatever into it but if people perceive that they’re not safe it’s not going to stick. You can’t run a business otherwise people aren’t going to come. People aren’t going to want to buy a house there. So early on, that was the most important thing, and doing it in a way that was efficient and effective without being oppressive. That’s been our mantra. Black Lives Matter put a name to it or a hashtag to it, but it’s always been our philosophy here. We have to preserve and restore order and do it in a way that the people who live there support.

We have to follow the will of the people, and the will of the people is “we want to live in a safer, more just place.” That’s always been our philosophy. We’ve dismissed several officers that were not part of that philosophy. The police chief and I have a shared commitment to those kinds of values, and an understanding that there are things that need to happen and things that don’t need to and shouldn’t happen, and that an arrest is the most undesirable outcome. That through de-escalation, it’s the last resort. It’s a different way and mindset for us, and we’ve consistently hired officers that understand that law and order is important, but so is respecting the inherent dignity of people without trampling civic rights. It’s not based in oppression or bias or the mindset that every black male is a criminal.

SK: Right. You’ve said that you’re “one phone call away from humility” and that sometimes you know the victim and the perpetrator in many cases because of the size of the town.

JF: That has happened and it’s heartbreaking. Something tragic really can happen and it ties into this country’s war on drugs policies. Why we’re still having this argument in this country about marijuana legalization boggles my mind. It’s crazy. You wouldn’t shoot somebody over a twelve pack of beer. You wouldn’t shoot someone over a flask of whiskey. Why, at least in this state, do we push it into the shadows and make it an illegal substance, whether it’s for medicinal purposes or recreational purposes? Let’s get it out in the open. Let’s legalize it, let’s reclassify it, and let’s tax and regulate it. We’re all going to be better off. What I find is that our marijuana policy disproportionately affects communities like mine.

SK: Exactly. You’re for marijuana decriminalization and legalization. NORML has hosted fundraisers for you. With the recent defeat of marijuana legalization in Ohio, as inevitable as it may be, is your position on legalization possibly out of step with your state and region, or are you just ahead of the curve?

JF: I don’t really care. I don’t do poll tests. I don’t say “well is this popular or is this unpopular?” I believe that marijuana needs to and should be reclassified. Statistics show that white and African Americans use it at a similar rate, and they also show disproportionate arrests. You look at how much opioids kill, or alcohol, and you look at marijuana: zero. Zero.

SK: No one’s ever OD’d from marijuana.

JF: They might have OD’d on cheetos afterward but certainly not marijuana. Our state is sending people away for nine, ten, fifteen years, and you can drive out to Colorado and load your trunk up. It’s insane. So I don’t consider it ahead of the curve or behind the curve; it’s the right decision. And it’s just a matter of time before a critical mass of people adopt it. And it was the same view I had on marriage equality. I didn’t care if it’s behind the times or whatever. The bottom line is that the government should not be in the business of telling you who to love. It’s equal protection under the law. And if you can’t choose who you love or want to get married to; it’s just a fundamental violation of everyone’s civil rights.

SK: You’ve always stuck to the position that “success is far from guaranteed,” and that the town is “moving in the right direction.” You told Bloomberg “there’s nothing revolutionary about it.” In a statewide Senate race you’re going to need to go from being humble to talking yourself up a bit more. How’s that transition going?

JF: It hasn’t. I’m not talking it up. I have a story to share and I think that story is emblematic of a lot of other communities across the state where people are living or where they used to live or they have parents who still there. I’m in those communities. It’s communities where the people think that their best days were a generation ago. It’s just a story of what we’ve done. And I say this, and it’s not an ‘aw shucks’ or humblebrag. My job is easy when it’s compared to the difficulties, the obstacles, and things of that nature, of people who are growing up in poverty in this country face in terms of barriers, discrimination, lack of opportunities, whether they’re educational or vocational. It’s much, much, much harder. I’ve always described it as the “random lottery” of my birth and everyone’s birth. And for whatever reason I got lucky in that regard, and I’ve always wanted to be of value. If I can make a situation better, or fairer, or safer, or whatever you want to call it, that’s what I’ve wanted to do with myself professionally. I was lucky to find my niche here. In terms of a statewide race, it’s really just about sharing a story. It’s not talking myself up. That’s not the message. The message is places like Braddock; I think they deserve a champion, and that’s really what the campaign is about.

SK: How has the new campaign affected your family?

JF: It’s lousy. It’s no secret. I don’t see my children as much as I used to and it gets me down sometimes. I would never put ambition above my family. Sometimes I worry that I’ve done that in this race. But it’s not like ambition from a personal sense, where I’m working 80 hours a week to get to the corner office. This is just an important thing. Everyone’s been wonderful and doing fine. But I do feel an enormous amount of regret every night that I’m not there to tuck the kids in or pick them up from school.

SK: You said “I don’t have any accomplishments in Braddock.” That you “only have great partnerships that have produced great outcomes.” It seems that the most important partnership in the city is the one between you and the First Lady of Braddock, Gisele Fetterman. It’s pretty evident that the town needed her as much as it needed you.

JF: It needs her more than me. This is also not a humblebrag. She has done some real wonderful things. Very meaningful things. She is tremendous. I’ve told this joke a lot, that if you look at my campaign logo or sign or whatever you call it, we didn’t put my first name in because I’m convinced everyone’s going to decide it should be Gisele, not John Fetterman running. They could just save money and use the same logo.

SK: She’s there in every campaign picture, she was seated behind you at a congressional hearing on green jobs, and has literally brought color to the town by spearheading public art projects. What would you and the town be without her?

JF: I’d be a lonely man. I wouldn’t be a father. I wouldn’t be inspired the way I am with her. It’s a cynical world and politics is a cynical business in many cases, but she is absolutely sincere as privately as she is publically. She’s truly the kindest person I know.

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SK: Gisele, nearly a decade ago, you heard about Braddock and what the mayor was doing and offered to start a summer program for kids. You guys were married in 2008 and have since started a family. What was it that compelled you to leave New Jersey and come to western Pennsylvania? What was it that clicked for you, where you went from having an obvious sense of compassion and social interest, and into a burning desire to uproot your life and make a contribution?

Gisele Fetterman: I think I come from an adventurous mother. She was searching for a better life for me when she moved to America. A lot of things interested me about the city. The sadness that something can give so much and then be left behind, that bothered me. The fact that there was this mayor trying to fight that and change that. That appealed to me as well. And visiting and seeing it in person. People say “Was it love at first sight?” and I say that I met Braddock first. That I drove through a bit before I actually met him. I felt this immense connection to the community. It felt very bright and very colorful and it just had something very special. And then meeting John. There was no choice. There was no “Oh I’m going to move here.” There was no choice that that’s where I was moving to.

SK: You opened the Free Store in 2012 as a way of combating clothing and food insecurity by partnering with K.I.D.S. (Kids in Distressed Situations) and half a dozen companies to get free clothes and food to the community, and to start what do you have called “a kindness movement.” The Free Store is great, but you’ve worked on other projects around the town as well: Braddock Farms, the Red Lantern Bike Shop, 412 Food Rescue. But my favorite is Positively Parking which has put up signs around town that read “NOTICE: Eat More Vegetables” or “NOTICE: Be Kind Always.” Have any of those programs been replicated elsewhere in the state?

GF: Yes, they have. More recently, there’s a community close by, Turtle Creek. They started putting up signs. They’re not official municipal signs like the ones we had done in Braddock. But folks just started finding these random signs around town saying nice things. A few people said “hey look, they’re doing it in Turtle Creek.” And my longer vision for the Free Store is that I wanted each community to have it’s own. So neighbors can get together and share their things. Each community having its own sustaining Free Store was kind of a longer version dream which is happening now. We’ve had communities call, like Wilkinsburg, which is outside Pittsburgh; they have their grand opening on December 5th, and a group in Clairton that’s working on one now, in addition to two other spin-offs.

SK: If your husband wins the Senate race, Braddock is going to need a new mayor. It would be a shame to turn these projects, which are still relatively new, over to someone who hasn’t nurtured them the way you guys have. Have you given any thought to running?

GF: John says that all the time. I’ve had several people say that. I guess I never saw myself in the position. I love the work I’m able to do on my own time and I have three small kids. It’s very flattering that people say that.

SK: So not at this time but…

GF: I don’t know. Maybe.

SK: Getting back to 2016, this is really for the two of you. Gisele, your family came to the US when you were a child to flee the violence of Rio de Janeiro. You spent most of your life as an undocumented DREAMER. The mayor has said he would not have the family he does without it and he’s thankful that you emigrated. What would you guys say to someone like, and I’m sorry to even mention this, Donald Trump, for instance, who has made vitriolic opposition to immigration an essential platform of his presidential campaign?

GF: I think he forgets how this country came together. It’s the essential fabric of America. We have all these great things that have changed because of people who came here and there needs to be a compassionate way to address that. A lot of people will say “You folks have to get in line and follow the legal path.” There is no such legal path. It doesn’t exist. That’s not the reality. If there was a line I would have been on it. It doesn’t exist.

JF: I wouldn’t say anything to him. It’s not the worth time. It’s like rolling around on the ground with a pig. Only the pig’s going to enjoy it and you’re both going to get dirty. Immigration is what made this country great. We’re all immigrants one way or the other. I cringe already at the reaction to the Paris attacks and the refugee crisis in Syria. They’re fleeing these kinds of people who caused such mayhem in the Paris attack. I’m disappointed that more democrats haven’t pushed back forcefully at the way that the other side talks about immigration. It’s un-American. I would never want the party to be cowed into mob mentality.

SK: You’re a gun owner. Seven out of the nine dates tattooed on your arm were murders that were a result of gun violence. There have been gun battles in the streets of Braddock that involved assault weapons. You’ve said in the past that gun control can’t be “reactionary,” and that it should be bipartisan. Expanded background checks have near-universal support, somewhere in the 90% range. Pat Toomey burned a lot of bridges trying to pass it in the Senate. What more could you offer on the topic of gun control?

JF: I am. My position is, everyone who owns a gun must be and should want everyone else to be a responsible gun owner. If I was going to have to sell my car to somebody I would have to show proof of insurance. I would have to show that I have a driver’s license. There’s no symmetry in the logic there. A car is a documented transaction. I want the same thing. What I tell people who are frustrated is that as much as we hate to acknowledge it, the other side gets a vote. As long as things are the way they are, there’s going to continue to be a gun stalemate until everybody collectively acknowledges that we have to change this. The NRA should be championing this louder than anybody. Wouldn’t you want it held to the highest standards? It seems contradictory.

SK: You’ve done a lot to bring green business to Braddock. You’ve said that “reinvention is the only option,” and you’ve been involved with the Environmental Defense Fund’s campaign “Carbon Caps Equal Hard Hats.” A lot of the steel needed for wind turbines could be manufactured in Braddock. Is Braddock too small to save itself? Is bringing green manufacturing jobs to PA and Braddock something that can only be done through the Senate?

JF: Imports are decimating what’s left of our American steel industry. Now that there aren’t any union members, we’re getting squeezed on both sides. We’ve got the CEO of US Steel who paid himself $13 million last year; meanwhile, they locked out workers over demanding that they pay an extra couple thousand dollars a year of their health insurance coverage. How do you sleep at night when you’re paying yourself $13 million a year, while you’re extracting every last nickel out of union guys who are killing themselves working in hot, dangerous conditions? I don’t know.

All I know is that my life has been about taking things to the next level for the things I believe in. That’s why I started teaching GED classes and working with young people, and when I hit my limit in terms of what a Program Director could do, that’s why I ran for mayor. And when I hit the limit on things as a small town mayor, this was the best solution that was accessible and presented itself. I’m not looking forward to a lot of things about the senate, should I be successful. There’s an undeniable visibility and bully pulpit in order to advance the issues that I think are not only important to Braddock but to the commonwealth as a whole. I’ll give you an example. There are a triangle of bridges that surround my community, and they all had to be shut down because they were all in such bad shape that they couldn’t even accommodate bus traffic. It’s almost like a third world country. You can’t believe that it actually happens here in this country.

As a small town mayor I‘ve got a bullhorn, but if you’re a United States Senator you can make change and impact things in a way that I can’t. Another example is that there are two gentleman in Pittsburgh who have been together since 1970. To put that in perspective, I was born in 1969. They had to adopt each other in order to guarantee that they could see each other in the hospital and to protect their financial inheritance. And now that, thank god, marriage equality is all across the whole nation, they had to dissolve their adoption which was just strictly to protect themselves legally and this judge in Pittsburgh refused, which is outrageous. And Senator Casey, to his credit, has been involved with the Justice Department trying to shepherd it through the process. Those are two examples of why I’m running. I can perform the first same-sex wedding in Pennsylvania, but I can’t help these guys as a small town mayor. The platform of the United States Senate is not optimum in how I like to work hands-on in Braddock, but I think it’s the only way if I want to continue to have an impact on some of these issues. It’s the best approach.

SK: You raised over $170,000 within two weeks of announcing your senate candidacy, with donations mostly smaller than $200. You’ve stayed away from big fancy fundraisers, preferring instead to campaign in bars across the state. You’ve got trackers from the Republican superPAC America Rising following you around. You’ve got Bill de Blasio’s campaign manager. It’s hard to imagine you as a fan of Citizens United and big money in politics. How do you square that with wanting to enter the big business-owned US Senate?

JF: I want everybody to relax about money in politics because it’s much worse than anyone thinks. The current system forces candidates to become telemarketers. The first question people ask is “how much money do you have?” It becomes a proxy for viability, and that shouldn’t be it. The most important thing should be your ideas, your positions, your resume, your story. The idea that money is somehow a proxy for democracy is a poisonous one. It’s beyond discouraging and it has to change. It’s only going to get worse and worse as time goes on. It forces elected officials to focus on fundraising, and it gives a disproportionate voice to millionaires and billionaires. It’s un-American. Let me tell you firsthand, it’s appalling the role that money plays in politics.

SK: If you win Philly and Pittsburgh in PA, you win. But there a lot of very conservative people in between those two cities. How can your platform and record of green energy, gay marriage, supporting Obama and health care reform, carbon taxes, immigration, weed legalization, economic inequality, resonate in the rest of the state? Are you too liberal for PA? Do you expect any crossover support?

JF: I grew up in that part of the state. I grew up in York, Pennsylvania, so I really understand the mindset of a lot of people there. And there are, quite frankly, a lot of people who, if you have a D or an R behind your name, they won’t vote for you no matter what. But there is some crossover appeal there. I really don’t see why these views should be considered progressive or liberal. It’s like “Who can live off six dollars an hour?” Should we be spending $35,000 a year to lock up somebody for marijuana? Things like that I don’t understand. Should you be allowed to love who you want to love? I don’t see how that’s a conservative or liberal principle. Especially people who hate big government. Why do you want big government telling you who you can love? I seriously don’t see it as being liberal or conservative. It’s just what’s fair. And I’m proud of the president. He has an amazing record.

If you look at every metric, everything is better under the Obama administration, and Democrats who try to run from that record, like Alison Grimes, who wouldn’t even say on the record if she voted for the president; that’s gutless. I’m proud and this is what I believe and I’m not going to say something different in each part of the state. I’m not going to say whatever it takes to get a check. It’s like I’m not going to say “I’ve evolved. I’m really not for marijuana legalization because my pollsters told me that it’s not a winning issue.” I don’t care if it’s not a winning issue. When I performed same-sex weddings with a provisional license I didn’t get a legal opinion. I did it because it’s the right thing to do and if it costs me, it costs me. I would much rather have been a civilian and stood up than have been a mayor and a coward.

SK: You’ve been obsessed with economic inequality for a long time. Way before Occupy Wall Street, you said that what you call the “random lottery of life” perpetuates an un-American and unsustainable inequality that “keeps you up at night.” Combating economic inequality has been the driving force in your life. But many conservatives point to inequality as evidence of American freedom. That naturally there are going to be some people who are left out as a result of others exerting their freedom and entrepreneurship. That the very existence of the poor means that the system is essentially functioning as it should. What would you say to that?

JF: That’s bullshit. I don’t know how else to say it. We all have to take care of and look out for each other, and if you’re working 40 or more hours a week and you’re still living in poverty or still require government assistance, then that is an unjust system and it needs to be changed. Of course there’s always going to be a disparity. But I don’t expect or deserve a life like Mark Zuckerberg or something.

I hope we can all come to a place where we agree that nobody should live in poverty, especially those who are working 40 hours a week. Nobody should have to go without health care. Nobody should have to go without quality early childhood education. And nobody should have to go without access to higher education or vocational training if that’s where their interests lay. To suggest otherwise goes back to being un-American and I don’t want your vote. Vote for Pat Toomey because that’s what he stands for.

SK: You’ve said that you see politics as a vehicle for public service. That there’s a “moral imperative” to enhance the lives of your residents and make it more fair, that “no community ever deserves to be abandoned.” But before the steel mills were even built, Braddock only had a population of a few thousand, and right now it does seem to be reverting back to its prior condition. Have the programs that you’ve started, many of which are paid for by you and your family, not turned Braddock into a de facto welfare state?

JF: Wow. No, not at all. That couldn’t be further from the truth. We are responding to the symptoms of an unjust set of circumstances. You could use the metaphor of rehabilitation. You’re taking a community that has been in nuclear winter in terms of development and population loss, in terms of safety. It’s absolutely not a welfare state. It’s a road map to a more just society where these types of interventions are never needed again.

What Braddock became was the result of an unjust system of the rich getting socialism and the poor getting capitalism. That’s how I sum it up in one sentence. If people cared as much about preserving blue-collar working jobs as they did about banking and finance jobs in the crisis of 2008 and 2009, my community and a lot of other communities around the state would look a lot different.

SK: I only ask because that’s the attack. That’s what’s coming if you win the primary. That’s what you’re going to deal with.

JF: Oh yeah. It’s gonna be all kinds of stuff like that. A welfare state is a loaded and quasi-racist term to use because it’s dog-whistling. Everyone knows what they’re really trying to say. That’s just not the case. I know it’s coming. And like I said, if your worldview is that toxic, where you can’t admit that you got help along the way or you were lucky in life or you’ve had some opportunities that a lot of other people may not have had, then I don’t want your vote. Vote for Pat Toomey. I can think of so few people who’ve done it entirely on their own and not gotten any help, never got a lucky break, never had a great mentor. There aren’t that many people walking around. If you’re unwilling to acknowledge that, then it’s unlikely you’ll consider voting for someone like me who’s trying to remind you of that fact.

SK: But doesn’t that make up the GOP base in many ways?

JF: Yeah. Absolutely. If you think that society should be every person for himself then it is entirely unlikely that I’m going to convince you to vote for me. Because I’m diametrically opposed to that virtue. I think we have to look out for each other and we have to consider the common good, and if you don’t care about the quality of life of the person making your burgers or cleaning your hotel room or picking your produce, again, vote for Pat Toomey.

SK: It’s easy to make the comparison between what’s happened to Braddock and the hollowing out of the American middle class and the American worker. It acts as a microcosm not only for the town that I’m from, Baltimore, but the country at large. What is the difference between managing what seems like an insurmountable, inevitable decline, and creating some kind of new radical revitalization? What is the difference between those two?

JF: You take on the latter while acknowledging that the former is still a possibility. There aren’t any guaranteed outcomes. There aren’t any guaranteed successes but it’s still something that needs to be taken on. It’s something that needs to be confronted. There’s no perfectibility of a community, especially one that has suffered as much as Braddock has, but at the end of day, god help us if we as a country become okay with the fact that some citizens don’t have heat, or citizens go to unsafe schools, or citizens hear gunshots at night, or citizens don’t have access to enough food, or some citizens still require assistance and live in poverty despite working full time.

SK: How would you perpetuate that mindset within the senate?

JF: By reminding people in the senate you’re making, whatever it is, $200,000 a year, that they have Cadillac health insurance for working 31 hours a week. That they’re the welfare queens. Their livelihood depends on the government. Their health insurance comes from the government, and they’re okay with that for themselves, but they don’t want that for their fellow citizens, and that’s perverse. My positions are my positions. And what we’re doing hasn’t worked and that has to change. If you look at the positions that I have, I like to think that they’re fair. It’s a shame that they fall on a political spectrum.